If you’re looking for an unusual destination off the beaten track, visiting Estonia is a must. This small country is a hidden gem packed with charming architecture, historic sites and very well-preserved nature.
Explore a submerged limestone quarry, located outside the small town of Rummu. It was once used as a mining site for Vasalemma marble. Most of the workforce came from among the detainees of the prison. When it was closed, pumps that kept the area dry were shut down. The natural groundwater flooded the quarry and the abandoned prison.
Today it's a beach attraction with the crystal clear water. However, this is unofficial and unguarded swimming and diving spot. The old quarry can only be explored with guides. The unique underwater museum can be seen thanks to the extremely transparent water, making it a perfect destination for divers.
Photo: yegorovnick, Shutterstock
Where to stay:
In Tallinn we encourage you to stay at the excellent 4* Hestia Hotel Ilmarine with breakfast included. Situated 290 m from Tallinn’s Old Town, this 4-star property features rooms with satellite TV, a safe, seating area and a free internet connection. Each room of the hotel features a classic, pastel coloured interiors. All include air-conditioning and have a private bathroom with a hairdryer and toiletries. Guests are welcome to use the fitness room free of charge. The Estonian Maritime Museum is 270 m from the hotel. The Balti Jaam Railway Station is within 850 m. Raekoja Plats and Tallinn Town Hall are only 900 m away. Private parking is available at an additional fee.
In Pärnu we recommend you to book 3* Hotel Hansalinn with excellent reviews. Located in the centre of Pärnu, the summer capital of Estonia, this 3-star property offers 11 cosy and quiet rooms. Each room is individually designed and offers a romantic ambience. Close to the Hotel Hansalinn, there is a beautiful church, a new concert hall, a theatre, a museum, galleries, shopping streets and nightclubs. The yacht harbour and the beach, which is considered to be the best in Estonia, are within easy walking distance.
What to do:
A trip to Estonia offers everything from nature walks to adventure parks and wildlife tours. Exploring the great outdoors will give you an opportunity to come face-to-face with owls, foxes and bears.
The country has five national parks and several other natural reserves or protected areas. Stunning natural surroundings offer both winter and summer outdoor activities. There are many options for adventure and adrenaline lovers and also for more relaxing leisure. 30% of Estonia’s surface area is composed of bogs. Therefore, walking through a bog is a must-do activity during a trip to this country. You can try it in Lahemaa National Park or Soomaa National Park.
Adventure lovers can jump and skydive, join a hot air balloon flight, go winter swimming, off-road racing or orienteering in the forest. Estonia has also several natural golf courses.
For those who love hiking, cycling, horse riding and paddling, this destination is a haven.
The 3000-kilometre coastline welcomes visitors to ports, islands and to paddle across rivers and lakes. Estonia accounts for more than 1,500 islands (more than Greece). Other water sports available include sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. Võhandu Marathon will test your endurance.
Canoeing on the flooded area is an adventurous experience and one of the best ways to get acquainted with Soomaa National Park. Floods are common in the end of March or at the beginning of April. Canoeing season in the national park lasts from April until October, log-boat building camps are organised in summer. In winter, when the whole wetland is frozen, snowshoe and sledge tours and backcountry skiing trips can be organised over the frozen bogs.
Winter in Estonia lasts from late November until late March. Rent cross-country skis, Nordic walking sticks or try riding kick sleds. Marvel at the spectacle of frozen waterfalls, the coastline and sea, and the country’s snow-covered forests and national parks.
You can relax in a sauna and then cool off in an ice hole. Estonian sauna was recently inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
If the winter is sufficiently cold and the sea is frozen, you can even experience the amazing feeling of driving from the mainland to Estonia’s second-largest island Hiiumaa across Europe’s longest ice road (26 km / 16 mi long).
For a unique shopping experience you have to visit one of the magical, picturesque Christmas markets in Tallin, Tartu, Paide, Narva, Pärnu or Vanamõisa. These traditional fairs will bring you plenty of unique handmade Christmas gifts from local artisans, like luxurious furs, knit socks, and wooden decorations. Savour seasonal foods like blood pudding, gingerbread cookies and hot mulled wine. In Estonia’s charming provincial towns local communities come together on town squares around Christmas time to rejoice and enjoy games, performances and delicious flavours.
The summer months are the perfect time to take part in music festivals. Folk events provide visitors with a taste of local song, dance, food and traditions. Jaanipäev (St John’s Day), celebrated on the night between June 23 and 24, is the most important time in the Estonian calendar, apart from Christmas. The short summer seasons with long days and brief nights hold special significance for the local people. During Midsummer, the longest day of the year, people all around the country will gather at traditional events to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing, as Estonians have done for centuries.
Visit Jägala, Estonia’s highest and widest waterfall, about 8 meter high and more than 50 meters wide. Often in winter times the temperatures drop to freezing and the waterfall turns into a gleaming ice wall.
Drive along the Lake Peipus (Peipsi Järv), the fourth biggest lake in Europe, to enjoy the sand beaches and cute villages.
Tartu Adventure Park is a real treat for families. It boasts over 50 different challenges, like a 300-metre zipline and an area for children.
Spend the night in a bear hide. With its 700 bears in a relatively small territory, Estonia is very well suited to bear watching.
Explore an abandoned submarine base in Hara, in the heart of Lahemaa National Park.
Discover the Piusa Sand Caves, man-made mineral caves that are the result of hand-mining glass sand during 1922–1966. They house the biggest wintering colony of bats in East Europe.
Museum of KGB Cells in Tartu displays an authentic secret prison in the dark and terrifying basement, as well as the exposition regarding Cold War and the Soviet regime.
If you want to post live your photos on social media, in Estonia you’ll find free Wi-Fi absolutely everywhere!
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